Variants of concern raise three questions: does the mutated Covid strain spread more easily between people? Can it evade previous immunity, either from infection or antibodies? And is the virus now more deadly? Additional surge testing and genomic sequencing has been deployed in Ruislip, West London. The Department of Health and Social Care said they are working in partnership with Hillingdon Council to implement targeted testing in the HA4 postcode.
People in the area are also encouraged to continue using twice-weekly rapid testing alongside the PCR test.
Enhanced contact tracing will be used for individuals testing positive for a variant of concern.
Surge testing is one arm of the strategy against Covid, helping to ensure variants of concern don’t spread like wildfire.
Bolton, in Greater Manchester, is also an area where additional testing and sequencing is taking place.
The Indian variant of concern
The coronavirus B.1.617.2 mutation may be just as transmissible as the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in Kent, which went on to dominate the UK.
Covid mutants that are more transmissible could spread more easily, meaning more people are infected at the same time.
This could cause hospital beds to fill up quickly, and can transcend into the NHS feeling overwhelmed again.
However, Covid vaccinations are helping protect people from severe disease from the virus.